PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Garth Brooks’ love of Pittsburgh dates back his childhood in Oklahoma and watching Roberto Clemente.
“I’ve been a fan of his since I was a baby. Collected all his cards from my older brothers. The fact that he passed away helping kids made me just kind of, he became a god to me,” Brooks said at a press conference Friday.
That love spread to all things Pittsburgh black-and-gold, from the teams to the hardworking people here.
“I like them. I like the people here because they’re kind of the people I want to be, if that makes any sense,” Brooks said.
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Brooks may be the biggest selling star on the planet, but he views himself as just a common guy who comes with songs that come from his heart.
“When the last child cries for a crust of bread… When you start that [song], all of a sudden, man, it starts to fill you up and it feels good,” he said.
The power of his songs being sung back to him has reached a new level in this stadium tour.
“Seventeen thousand people singing ‘Unanswered Prayers’ is beautiful. Eighty thousand singing ‘Unanswered Prayers’ will make you weep. It just gets inside your bones,” Brooks said.
Because the fans come to – as he says – work, his older songs are always new.
“I haven’t sung ‘Friends In Low Places’ in 25 years. You’ll see. All I do is play the first four notes and then I wait for them to finish.” Brooks said.
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When it came to planning the stadium tour, there was never a question Heinz Field would be on the list.
“In this case, I come to this city because I’ve been here and I wanted to come back. But you come to a concert when people come here and go, ‘come on get it started,’ that’s who you want to play for. That’s who lives here and so that’s why it’s fun to play here,” Brooks said.
Drill down on the message in Brooks’ songs over the years and you won’t have to go very deep to find love. His heart was broken last October when the Tree of Life tragedy shook this town, and Friday, he joined Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in meeting with the survivors and other members of the Tree of Life congregation at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.
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“The kind of people that we are sometimes is not good people, and the kind we can be is fantastic, so that’s what you focus on. We’ll be talking to that group of people today, and that’s the message, is just love and tolerance. But what’s happened here is happening in New Zealand, it’s happening everywhere. And so the message is you cannot give up on love,” Brooks said.
Tomlin and Brooks addressed a crowd of several hundred, including many teenagers.
“Let me tell you, I took away one line out of Garth Brooks — accountability. Always be accountable for whatever you do. Whether it is what you say, what you do, your action, just say you did it. Be accountable for what you did,” Sammy Balyasny said.
“Garth took something from a kids movie, ‘Mulan,’ and that really spoke to me. He said, ‘Be that grain of rice that tips the scale.’ I just thought that was, like, a really neat way to sum it up and motivate kids to have inner confidence,” Alison Gordon told KDKA News.
While Brooks will spend time with Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Keisel and Steelers players from Oklahoma, his trip to Pittsburgh is all about the fans who will pack Heinz Field Saturday night. From the front row to the highest seat, Brooks is out to make it worth their money.
“So what you do is you get out there and you walk that stadium. You sit in those seats and you realize what you have to do as an entertainer to make sure these people see that you see them and they see your gratitude,” Brooks said.
Brooks says you’ll hear the songs you expect to hear and beyond that it depends on how much the fans are into it.
“So the concert will go anywhere from two hours to three-and-a-half hours. It just depends on them. They’re going to come into this stadium, Super Bowl happens tomorrow. And we’re playing in front of the coolest crowd on the planet, so this is going to fun, rain or shine,” Brooks said.
The concert starts at 7 p.m. Saturday. Stadium parking lots open at 2 p.m.